MADISON — Wisconsin Democrats running for office next year moved quickly Thursday to distance themselves from U.S. Sen. Al Franken, of neighboring Minnesota, amid allegations of sexual misconduct 11 years ago.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Democratic challenger, Randy Bryce, both said they were giving away money given to them by Franken’s political action committee. Their actions came within hours of Republicans calling for them to get rid of the money.
Los Angeles radio news anchor Leeann Tweeden said Thursday that Franken forcibly kissed her during a 2006 USO tour. A photo of him with his hands on Tweeden’s breasts as she slept also circulated for the first time.
Franken issued an apology and said he would cooperate with a Senate ethics investigation.
“I am glad to see that Senator Franken immediately apologized,” said Baldwin, who is up for re-election next year. “This kind of behavior isn’t OK, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, and I support an Ethics Committee investigation.”
Baldwin was donating $20,000 she received from Franken’s PAC to the Women Veterans Initiative, an effort focused on advocating for at-risk and underserved women veterans.
Two Republicans, state Sen. Leah Vukmir and businessman Kevin Nicholson, are running to take on Baldwin. Vukmir’s campaign manager Jess Ward said that the charges ought to be investigated.
“Harassment and sexual misconduct is unacceptable and any allegation should be treated seriously without exception,” Ward said.
Nicholson did not immediately respond.
Bryce, who is taking on Ryan, referenced a statement from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee saying all Democratic candidates would be donating the Franken money to local charities.